Fox News Poll: Cruz, Trump ahead in Iowa, Clinton holds caucus lead

Ted Cruz and Donald Trump are the top two candidates Iowa Republican caucus-goers say are the most qualified to handle the top two issues facing the country -- the economy and national security.

That gives them front-runner status in a new Fox News poll of Iowa likely caucus-goers.

The poll, released Sunday, also finds Hillary Clinton leads Bernie Sanders by double-digits among Democrats in the Hawkeye State.


Cruz garners 28 percent support and Trump 26 percent among GOP likely caucus-goers.  Together they command more than half of the total support. Rubio comes in third with 13 percent. Carson, the Iowa front-runner in October, is fourth with 10 percent. Those four compose the clear top tier.

Five percent back Jeb Bush and Rand Paul.  All other candidates come in at two percent or less.

When the results are narrowed to just those GOP caucus-goers who say they will “definitely” attend, Cruz’s advantage over Trump increases: 32 percent vs. 25 percent.  Trump has a 3-point edge over Cruz among those who say they will “probably” attend.

“This is Trump’s challenge in Iowa,” says Democratic pollster Chris Anderson.  “Those who are definitely going to caucus are less likely to support him, so he needs to motivate people to attend who may not usually do so.”  Anderson conducts the Fox News Poll along with Republican pollster Daron Shaw.

GOP caucus-goers who identify as “very” conservative help propel Cruz in Iowa, as 4 in 10 back him (42 percent).  Trump comes in second with 23 percent and Carson gets 14 percent among this group.

White evangelical Christians are a significant voting bloc in Iowa and they also put Cruz on top, although by a narrower margin.  He gets 31 percent compared to 24 percent for Trump.  Another 14 percent go for Rubio and 10 percent Carson.

Caucus-goers with a college degree prefer Cruz by 5 points (26 vs. 21 percent), while those without a degree go for Trump by 3 points (32 vs. 29 percent).

Cruz gets his highest support -- 48 percent -- from those who are part of the Tea Party movement -- that’s double Trump’s 24 percent.

Meanwhile, Cruz has more room than Trump to grow his support in Iowa.  Three in 10 caucus-goers say they could “never” support Trump (30 percent), while just 6 percent say the same about Cruz.  Nearly a quarter (23 percent) says they couldn’t back Bush, and roughly one in 10 couldn’t back Christie, Kasich, Paul and Graham.

The economy and national security are the two most important issues to Iowa GOP caucus-goers.  Who can best handle those?  Trump and Cruz.

Trump is, by far, seen as the most qualified to handle the economy (41 percent), while Cruz comes in a distant second (17 percent).  No one else makes it into double-digits.

They are also seen as the two most qualified to handle national security -- just in reverse order.  Cruz takes the mantle on security with 30 percent and Trump gets 20 percent.  Another 11 percent pick Rubio.

Iowa GOPers are looking for a candidate who is a strong leader (25 percent) and honest and trustworthy (22 percent).  Those traits are more important than being a true conservative (18 percent), shaking things up in Washington (14 percent), and defeating the Democrat (11 percent).

But who can win?  Thirty-two percent say that candidate is Trump.  That’s about twice as many as think Cruz (18 percent) and Rubio (14 percent) can beat Clinton in 2016.

Most GOP caucus-goers are dissatisfied with how things are going in the country (87 percent), and nearly seven in 10 say from their family’s perspective -- it feels like the economy is getting worse (67 percent).

Democratic Caucus

By a 50-36 percent margin, Clinton leads Sanders among likely Democratic caucus-goers.

Women go for Clinton by 57-31 percent.  Support among men splits:  42 percent for Sanders vs. 40 percent for Clinton.

The under age 45 crowd backs Sanders by 22 points, while those ages 45+ are more likely to support Clinton by 35.

"It's still probably the case that Sanders' best chance to make the Democratic nomination process competitive is to win in Iowa and then carry New Hampshire," says Shaw.  "These results suggest Bernie has a lot of work to do."

Fifty-four percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers are satisfied with the direction of the country, and by a 17-point margin, they say the economy is getter better rather than worse (47-30 percent).

The Fox News Poll is conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R). The poll was conducted December 7-10, 2015, by telephone (landline and cellphone) with live interviewers among a random sample of 807 Iowa caucus-goers selected from a statewide voter file.  Results for the 357 likely Democratic caucus-goers have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points and for the 450 likely Republican caucus-goers it is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.